This week, the Top 11 will perform songs from the year they were born, ranging from 1983-1995. That alone will make the judges feel “old.” (OK, it made me feel kinda old, too). And Jimmy Iovine has brought in Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas to help mentor. We start with baby pics of the judges (Ha Ha…Steven and Randy’s were black-and-white photos). The singers were introduced with interviews with their parents, and more pics and stories about them as kids.
Phillip Phillips, born in 1990, rehearsed in pain. He had surgery for kidney stones just last Thursday, and still impressed Will.I.Am and Jimmy with his rendition of Hard to Handle from The Black Crowes. Performing without his trusty guitar, it was nice to actually understand the lyrics. Randy thought he sounded amazing, and also approved of his song choice. J-Lo said it was a great song, and perfect. Steven thought the song matched his voice and character.
Jessica Sanchez, born in 1995, opted for Gloria Estefan’s Turn the Beat Around. I guess she wanted to show that she could do more than a power ballad. Will.I.Am was impressed, but Randy didn’t think the song had room for her voice. J-Lo said her voice didn’t suit the syncopated beat, and it wasn’t her favorite. Steven loved her silver pants, but suggested she not stray too far from ballads, as her rhythm was off with the up-tempo song. Guess she’ll need to try to turn them around if she’s back next week.
Heejun Han‘s parents had subtitles as they talked about their son, who was born in 1989. He opted for Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx. Jimmy and Will.I.Am worked with him on enunciation, which Heejun referred to as English 101. He then asked Will.I.Am for Fergie’s phone number. Oh, he cracks me up! He sounded a little breathy, but also tender and sincere. Randy thought he was pitchy, and seemed out of breath the whole time. He thought the song was too “pop” for his usual R&B vibe. Randy got booed. J-Lo thought his tone was special and gorgeous, and that he had fought through the song, showing his heart. Steven thought he had stepped outside his comfort zone, and that it wasn’t great, but loves his voice anyway. When asked who he was thinking about during the song, he gave percentages to his girlfriend (in the audience), J-Lo, Fergie…I LOVE this guy! I just hope the voters will, too.
Elise Testone, 1983, opted for the remake of Let’s Stay Together by Al Green. Will.I.Am liked her rasp and vibrato, but would like to see her smile. Since she was in a good mood that day, she decided to listen to his advice. A clip was shown pairing her with President Obama singing the same opening line. I guess that’s the closest the producers could get to getting the President on the show. He can carry a tune, though. And Elise actually smiled. Randy proclaimed to America that she was back, J-Lo said she showed America who Elise is, and Steven loves her voice and the beauty and soul behind it. She did well, but will America forget the attitude she has shown up to this point?
Deandre Brackensick originally wanted to do a Disney Elton John song,from 1994, but Jimmy and Will.I.Am talked him into doing the Luther Vandross/Mariah Carey version of Endless Love instead. The little girls will still be voting for him and his hair, but Randy thought it was the wrong song, and boring and safe. J-Lo thought he sang it beautifully, but thought that the mentors steered him in the wrong direction with the song choice. Steven also thought it was the wrong song for him.
The judges reminded us that there are thousands of songs released every year, and poor song choices just aren’t an excuse given all the options. Ooohhhh, they are being really tough tonight! Finally, the lovefest is over!
Shannon Magrane took on the 1995 Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men song, One Sweet Day. Will.I.Am told her to work on breath control, but you could still hear her inhale throughout the song. The judges had been terrified at her song choice, but Randy said she has mad potential, and is fearless. J-Lo said the song wasn’t an easy undertaking, but she did a great job with it. Steven said it was beautiful. Ryan thanked her for wearing flats. Meh.
Colton Dixon was brave, and chose 1991′s Broken Heart by White Lion. The band didn’t know the song, and neither did the judges, though only Randy and J-Lo admitted it. He had great stage presence, and made the song his own. Good thing, since no one knew the song! Randy said the song didn’t matter, since he performed it dope. He also liked his outfit. J-Lo thought he delivered it really well, making it a “Colton” song, and that he looks pretty when he sings. Steven thought it was the wrong song for his voice and passion, and didn’t feel it go anywhere.
Next up was Erica Van Pelt, born in 1985. She opted for Heaven by Bryan Adams. Will.I.Am told her she needs to execute, and Jimmy thought it was a great song, and gave her arrangement and phrasing suggestions. I thought it showcased her voice, and the show’s stylists definitely worked on her look. Randy liked it and gave it an 8 out of 10. He liked her song choice and said she looked amazing. J-Lo said she has great chops, but didn’t like the arrangement. She also thought she looked amazing (the best she’s looked yet), and reinforced that the look is important, too. Steven liked her voice, but thought she was too busy all over it. OK, I guess they all meant that she should just sing a great song. Whatever.
Skylar Laine was up next, and she said that the judges were being really mean tonight. LOL! She opted to do the 1994 song Love Sneakin’ Up On You by Bonnie Raitt. Jimmy and Will.I.Am tried to steer her to other songs, but she stuck to her guns. I think she showed cross-over appeal with this song choice. Randy said they had a rockin’ in-house country girl, and did it well. J-Lo thought she killed it, and did her country thing. Steven said she has a lot of heart and soul, and hadn’t heard a bad song from her yet. Lesson to the ones who were swayed: stick to your gut! And the judges’ mean streak seemed to come to an end.
Joshua Ledet did the 1992 Michael Bolton version of When a Man Loves a Woman. Will.I.Am said the song took him to church. He was presented with crawfish prior to his performance, and WOW! The judges rose to their feet after he took his jacket off. This was the first truly spectacular song choice, and thought he hasn’t been one of my favorites, he sure was tonight! The judges gave him a standing ovation, and Randy said he was phenomenal and incredible on every level. He thought maybe the crawfish did it! J-Lo proclaimed it to be the best thing she’s ever seen on American Idol, and kept saying “WOW!” Steven said it was so good they were up halfway through it.
Last up was Hollie Cavanagh, who took on the 1993 Celine Dion hit The Power of Love. Will.I.Am was blown away by the power of “Tinkerbell.” OK, where DOES she fit that voice? Randy thought she was in her wheelhouse, and blew it out of the box. J-Lo thought that she and Joshua had shown that the best was saved for last. Steven heard a little pitch problem here and there, but thought it was great.
Ryan asked the judges who they thought was safest, and who was in trouble. Randy thought Joshua was safe, as did J-Lo and Steven. Randy thought Heejun might be in trouble, but the other judges opted to leave it up to America to decide.
I think (hope) that Heejun’s personality will buy him another week (at least), but I think Jessica may be in trouble. Don’t gasp. Pia and Thia went home last year after straying from the power ballad. Elise and Shannon may also be in trouble. Elise for attitude, Shannon just because. All I know for certain is….Jermaine is gone. Tune in tomorrow night to see how the voting went!